Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Road to Lagos (Zing Zang Internet Cafe)

Having taken a break from blogging for a while, here is a poem that I read at the Kano Association of Nigerian Authors English branch, which holds at the British Council. I kind of got drafted to read at the last minute (I hadn't planned to read when I saw that there were about 100 people there, as opposed to the 6 or 7 that usually show up in Jos), so I didn't get much feedback. So, I'll post it here for comments.

I am very impressed by both Hausa and English sections of the Association of Nigerian Authors. From the one English section meeting I've attended and the two Hausa sections I've attended, I would guess that probably over 70 people (a very rough guestimation, and I'm bad at numbers) attend each section. The format is formal and moderated by a chairperson, with a group of about five authors reading poems, short stories, or excerpts from novels. Most of them have photocopied enough copies to pass around to the rest of the people there. There is then a response time during which people make comments on the works, and if there is time the authors respond. Depending on how many people there are, they might go through this process several times.

In Kano, there is an English and Hausa writers section. The Chairman of Kano ANA, Ado Ahmad Gidan Dabino, also tells me that there are also plans to establish a French and Arabic writers section--a cross-language creative initiative that will also be a part of the up-coming Kano-ANA trip to Niger.

A great forum. Rather intimidating to read because there are so many people there.

Here's my poem that I wrote about two and a half years ago and revised last semester:

The road to Lagos

HOPE is the thing with feathers,
the squawking cock strapped
over the back wheel of an okada
that travels the long road west.

The bus in front dances like an old man;
It bounces aged joints over rainy season
excavations in asphalt. Patched tires spray
mud of late rains.

Four travelers who set out at dawn,
wedge in the third seat from the back.
Hipbone grinds hipbone.
Sweat spreads underarms
on lace agbada and Holland-wax blouse.
The pilgrims to Lagos watch,
as if hypnotized, the red, white, and blue cut-
out air freshener sway from the cracked mirror
that breaks their faces in two.

“Che,” says the cloth trader headed for Togo,
in the next seat, when she hears
where the four travelers hope
to go. “Na dat one be God’s own countri,
oh. God dey. Na im go give una visa.”

It is only then, as if in response to her prayer,
the manic okada swerves
between their bus and the lorry speeding east.

“JEEEESUS.” There is squawking,
and then blood and a spray of glass—
a brief shimmer of caught sun—
like a spirit released.

It is late afternoon, and when they emerge
into the drawing crowd, all they can see
of the okada is a twisted metal skeleton,
blood smeared, then feathers scattered
on the road like that sacrifice
where the white man plucked away the coin, and left
the bloody chicken covered in chalk,
feathers fluttering down the road.